Harsh winter weather means more time indoors, which can mean breathing in airborne irritants that trigger indoor allergies in 10-20% of us – fortunately allergy expert Max Wiseberg has the top lifestyle hacks to protect you from house fever...
RISING What is house fever?
MAX WISEBERG, ALLERGY EXPERT ‘Knowing that I suffer from hay fever and that it should stop at the end of the summer, I always wondered why I carry on having horrible allergy symptoms, often throughout the winter. And then I realised that although the pollen had stopped, there were many other allergens hanging around the house, ready to give me grief – including dust mites, mould spores and even animal dander. I thought, “Blimey, I’m allergic to my own house! Instead of hay fever, I’ve got house fever.”’
‘House fever could be nearly as big a problem as hay fever. Currently around 1 in 5 people suffer with hay fever in the UK. NHS Choices report that indoor allergies are very common and that 10-20% of the population has an indoor allergy.’
‘Keep the humidity in your house to a minimum to control allergens and vacuum with a HEPA filter’
RISING Are rising air pollution levels linked with allergic sensitivity?
MW ‘It looks likely; a Seoul University study carried out on allergic diseases and air pollution stated that: “Several epidemiological and experimental studies indicate that air pollutants play roles in both the initiation and exacerbation of allergic diseases.”’
‘There is no doubt that there is air pollution in the home. There are numerous studies which have measured the pollution, from brominated and organophosphorus flame retardants, through particulate matter (similar to the stuff that diesel cars spread) from wood stoves and cooking, to good old house dust, which often contains all the pollutants, anyway. Then a Which study earlier this year also found that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are in ordinary household products such as air fresheners, cleaning, DIY and personal hygiene products, as well as carbon dioxide.’
‘Some pollutants, like simple pollen or dust allergens might cause immediate effects in susceptible people, while others may have longer term effects which are extremely difficult to quantify, with some commentators and websites indicating that pollutants may be carcinogenic. A 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians and the RCPCH covered both indoor and outdoor pollution and claimed that air pollution in the UK is contributing to over 40,00 deaths a year and called for action by the government.’
RISING What are your top three hacks to guard against airborne allergens?
‘Mould and dust mites thrive in moist environments. Try to keep the humidity in your house to a minimum to control these allergens. Make sure your house is well ventilated, avoid drying clothes on radiators and/ or use a dehumidifier.’
‘Vacuum the house regularly using a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filter, especially beds and fabrics to reduce the number of dust and pet allergen particles.’
‘Using an organic allergen barrier balm such as HayMax will help to block out the allergens. A steroid nasal spray and antihistamines will help too.’
RISING What about exercising in this kind of air? What’s the best advice?
MW ‘If you can’t avoid airborne allergens when you’re exercising then protecting yourself from those allergens makes sense. Use an organic allergen barrier balm, antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, and if it’s extreme enough, try wearing a mask with a good filter.’
‘Try eating more berries, cherries, and lots of fruit and veg – the hottest curry on the menu can help too’
RISING Are there any diet choices we can make to help combat these symptoms?
MW ‘Yes, try eating more berries, cherries, and lots of fruit and veg, preferably raw. The less you cook them the more goodness they retain. Crushed raw garlic is also good, because it reduces catarrh. Going for the hottest curry on the menu can help – or if you’re making your own, go heavy on the spices. Turmeric, an orange-yellow spice, widely used in curries and South Asian cuisine, is believed to reduce inflammation caused by the enzyme phospholipase A2, which is provoked into action by pollen in your system.’
‘Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Beer, wine and spirits all contain histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in your body. In addition to making you more sensitive to pollen, alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms seem worse.’
‘Avoid mucus-producing dairy drinks. Excess mucus is exactly what you don’t need if you suffer from hay fever or house fever. Drink water, fruit tea, herb tea, and any non-caffeinated tea. Avoid dairy, meat, tomatoes, wheat, wheat products and yellow melon. Some hay fever sufferers experience a tingling in and around the mouth when eating certain foods. This is commonly known as ‘Pollen Food Syndrome’ or ‘Oral Allergy Syndrome’.’
RISING If you have house fever are you likely to get hay fever and if so what can you do in summer?
MW ‘It’s a difficult question to answer. Often people who are allergic to airborne allergies in the home will find that they’re allergic to pollen, but it’s by no means certain. Obviously each individual has a completely unique medical background so you can’t really generalise. For a medical condition you should always consult your doctor.’
RISING Why are these kind of allergies on the rise?
MW ‘One cause might be our current western diet, which contains a high proportion of processed foods containing artificial chemical flavourings that can trigger reactions. And another could be the hygiene hypothesis. Previously in the west, there would be opportunities for the immune system to react against parasites. But now, because our environment is pretty much free of parasites, our immune systems aren’t challenged as much. They then start targeting random proteins.’
‘Sufferers can be allergic to any type of protein including those from house dust mites, foods and pollen. And as mentioned before, pollution could also be a factor and directly linked to this, climate change.’
RISING What’s the long-term solution?
MW ‘There are several trials in progress for a hay fever cure, which are based on providing immunity by gradually increasing exposure to the allergen – usually based on injections. 14 years ago, people were saying there would be a cure in 10 years. Now they are saying there’ll be a cure in five years. The early indications are that these injections will work for a proportion of the population but not for everyone.’
‘Who knows what the future could bring? Technology and our understanding of the human body is changing at an amazing pace. It may turn out that there is another way to treat our bodies to help them understand that these allergens are not actually harmful that no one has even thought of yet. So this is a nut that will probably be cracked in the long term, but don’t hold your breath!’
WHAT NEXT? Think you’re suffering from house fever? Then try these five hacks from Wiseberg today:
‘Damp dust surfaces regularly, to reduce allergens on surfaces whilst avoiding dispersing them into the air.’
‘Wash bedding very regularly to remove allergens. Anti-allergy bedding made from ‘intelligent fibres’ can be very helpful for children and adults who suffer from dust mite allergies. They limit the growth of dust mite allergens and also keep them away from the skin.’
‘Apply an organic drug-free allergen barrier balm around your nostrils and the bones of the eyes in the morning, throughout the day and at night to trap pollen, dust, pet and mould allergens before they enter the bod. Less allergen = less reaction.’
‘Shower at night before going to bed, to remove dust and pet allergens from your hair and body.’
‘Ensure your pet is well groomed and shampooed as much as possible to remove pet allergens and dust particles, and try to keep pets out of bedrooms.’
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
Follow the writer @mattfitnessray